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Mt. Airy : Innovation + Job News

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The Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub launches in Mt. Airy

On February 4, Mayor Jim Kenney joined Mt. Airy USA Executive Director Brad Copeland and others for the official launch of the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub at 6700 Germantown Avenue.

In his remarks to the diverse crowd of immigrant entrepreneurs, funders and other supporters, Kenney called the room "a beautiful sight."

"This is what Philadelphia looks like," he said. "And this is what the country should look like."

Copeland added that a support and co-working hub for Philly's immigrant entrepreneurs was "very Mt. Airy" -- the neighborhood is already extremely diverse and civically engaged. He praised Hub members’ commitment, drive, energy, vision and "willingness to take risks."

The Hub was made possible by a 2015 Knight Foundation Cities Challenge grant. Speakers credited former Mt. Airy USA leader Anuj Gupta for the inspiration to pursue these dollars for the project. Out of 5,000 applications last year, there were 32 winners -- seven of those from Philadelphia, the most winners from any city in the country.

"[Knight] allows organizations like ours to dream crazy dreams and then challenges us to make them a reality," enthused Copeland.

Sarajane Blair and Jamie Shanker of Mt. Airy USA outlined the new space's offerings, which are made possible with additional financial support and guidance from the nonprofit community lender FINANTA. Services will include "core workshops" (offered through a partnership with the Welcoming Center for New Pennyslvanians), individual business and financial plan development, credit building tools, and community support and engagement helmed by Mt. Airy USA. Hub members will also have access to a co-working space on Germantown Avenue, five financial lending cycles a year, and dedicated networking programs.

"We will do everything we can to help you succeed," said Blair to program participants.

Those eligible for the program must be immigrants to the U.S. who want to be self-employed and have a business idea or plan, but need assistance in starting or growing their business. Applicants can head to piihub.org to get started.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub launch speakers

An innovative all-natural deodorant goes from Philly kitchen to TV's 'Shark Tank'

Philly entrepreneurs Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner have been brainstorming together ever since their elementary school lemonade stand in Allens Lane Playground. Now they’re 26 years old, and on December 11, they pitched their latest product -- the world’s first all-natural activated charcoal creme deodorant -- on an episode of ABC's Shark Tank.

The duo founded PiperWai with the mission of offering customers a safe, effective, fragrant, gender-neutral, aluminum and chemical-free deodorant. It took a while for them to realize that the activated charcoal in the product -- which users apply with a fingertip -- was the key. A lot of research into body odor and deodorant competitors led to experiments in a Philly home kitchen. 

"I was looking up activated charcoal for my stomach, actually," recalls Edelstein, "chief maker" and CEO. She got interested in the substance’s absorbent properties. "I kind of had that lightbulb moment to put it in the deodorant."

This was a few years ago, before activated charcoal became a trendy ingredient in cosmetics.

CFO Ribner tested the new concoction during a volunteering trip in Guyana. The stuff worked.

In its current incarnation, PiperWai is a creme blend of organic oils such as coconut, vitamin E, shea butter and cocoa butter, the signature charcoal (which won’t discolor clothes), and a proprietary blend of 11 "therapeutic-grade" essential oils that keep men and women equally fresh.

After finalizing their recipe, the founders began producing deodorant in batches of 300 at Greensgrow Community Kitchen, using pastry piping bags to get it into the jars.

The company's name has two parts -- the first is for Edelstein’s beloved family dog Piper; the "Wai" is borrowed from the name of the Waiwai tribe, who Ribner spent time with during her travels in Guyana.

The pair never saw being woman entrepreneurs as a roadblock to success, but actually launching their business taught them that while there are many programs and funds geared specifically to female entrepreneurs, there are still major gender imbalances when it comes to venture capital.

"I never knew that female entrepreneurs have a hard time in business until we launched a company," says Edelstein. "At some pitch competitions, there were very few women."

Ribner points to the fact that venture capital funds in the U.S. overwhelmingly favor male-founded companies.

A year ago, Flying Kite spoke with DreamIt Ventures’ Archna Sahay, who explained that businesses with female CEOs receive less than 10 percent of venture capital funding nationwide, despite women founding businesses at one and a half times the national average -- and delivering 12 percent more revenue with one third less capital than comparable male founders.

"That’s what led us to do crowdfunding instead," explains Ribner; over $27,000 from an Indiegogo campaign boosted their capacity. "We didn’t have to give away equity and it got us to the next level…So it was one of those situations where one door closes and another door opens."

Now, the two are setting their sights on expanding their deodorant line, developing a stick version of the creme, an extra-strength version and travel sizes. Currently selling their product with 40 independent retailers, they’re working on a deal with Whole Foods in the mid-Atlantic area, starting with Philly.

"You can show people that your gender doesn’t matter," says Edelstein. With the right product and great customer service, "you can still kill it in business."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner, PiperWai


Mt. Airy's Make Art, Grow Food connects kids and elders thanks to a new grant program

This summer's news about the impending loss of their lease didn’t deter Mt. Airy Art Garage leaders and supporters from celebrating the September 9 dedication of their new Make Art, Grow Food mural and garden. The project has transformed MAAG's backyard from a blank wall and a tangle of weeds to a vibrant art piece and rows of fresh vegetables.
The project was made possible by a grant of about $5,000 from the East Mt. Airy Neighbors Association (EMAN) Community Fund, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation. It’s EMAN’s first year giving these grants, and Executive Director Elayne Bender says Make Art, Grow Food was a natural fit for their mission.
The mural was developed via a months-long collaboration between a specialized class of autistic sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the nearby Henry H. Houston School, the elderly day residents of Homelink, Inc. (an adult center and MAAG neighbor), and MAAG member artists and educators. According to Bender, this inter-generational aspect in particular appealed to EMAN.
Illinois native Daisy Juarez, a painter and MAAG member, spearheaded the mural portion of the project. The participating kids and elders drew their own designs for the wall, and Juarez worked them all into one piece. The design was projected and traced onto primed paper pieces. The students and adults then painted in segments on tables inside MAAG; these paper segments were then mounted and sealed on the wall.
"It’s the first time we did a project here with this many people," explained MAAG co-founder Arleen Olshan at the dedication, which was attended by the kids, the elders, Bender and representatives of other supporting groups such as Valley Green Bank, Primex and Mt. Airy Animal Hospital.
For the garden portion of the project, a local Home Depot donated plants and gear, including tables and hoses. MAAG volunteers are helping to maintain the space.
The proud kids (along with a few parents) and elders got their first look at the finished mural on the wall at the dedication. Wherever MAAG lands, Slodki promises that the mural will follow, with a large photograph of it converted into a giclée print.
Bender says the project was a particularly emotional one for her: She cried upon seeing the finished mural in August. 

"It’s joy on a wall," she enthuses.
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Elayne Bender, East Mt. Airy Neighbors

Making great food products while combating poverty in southeastern Pennsylvania

Lancaster entrepreneur Charlie Crystle, whose food products are finding an enthusiastic audience in Greater Philadelphia, has a specific philosophy on the trouble with America’s economy.

According to the Lancaster Food Company CEO, what we need is "an effort to make jobs that meet people where they are, rather than where we want them to be." Politicians and civic leaders talk a lot about job training, but especially in a city like Lancaster -- which has a 30 percent poverty rate -- this falls short. Focusing on job training programs rather than immediately accessible jobs "continues to push the responsibility for unemployment onto the unemployed…if we don’t do something to meet them halfway, or all the way, [they] will never have decent employment," he argues.

Hiring people in poverty with a good living wage is a part of his company's mission. Crystle founded the company alongside his childhood friend Craig Lauer, who serves as chief product officer, in 2014. After launching and then exiting two software startups, living coast-to-coast and working in Central America with a program for street kids, Crystle felt a strong desire to create a company at home with a social as well as an economic impact.

Lancaster Food Company specializes in organic and sustainably sourced breads, spreads, salsas and jams, including sandwich rye and cinnamon raisin swirl bread, sunflower seed spreads, and limited-edition small-batch toppings from locally grown ingredients such as golden orange tomato salsa and organic strawberry jam. A Lancaster Heritage Grain bread is also on the way this fall.

While their products are handmade, Crystle insists Lancaster Food Company is already a scalable business -- their target market ranges from Washington, D.C., to the New York metro area, with a large presence in Philly. Currently, you can find their products at Mariposa and Weavers Way food co-ops, Reading Terminal Market, area Shop-Rites and the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. They just closed an exciting deal with five Wegman’s stores in Southeastern PA, and have their sights set on Whole Foods; look for their products on the shelves of a location in Wayne soon.

That increased reach means more room to advance the company’s social philosophy: hiring people in poverty struggling to find jobs. The company was launched with "a demand for jobs that require relatively low skills, and could meet people where they are in terms of their education, work history or legal background," explains Crystle, something that was difficult to achieve with his prior work in tech startups. "We’re trying to scale so that we can hire hundreds of people, not dozens."

He’s also adamant about the value of supporting local businesses and enjoys being able to tap into the vibrant agriculture of the Lancaster area.

"Every dollar that we spend locally has…three times the impact on our local economy" as money spent on goods from corporations in faraway states, he explains. That adds up to a business as committed to combating poverty as it is to pleasing customers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Charlie Crystle, Lancaster Food Company


Community funding propels G-Town Radio from the internet to the airwaves

G-Town Radio station manager Jim Bear says that though it might not yet be visible to the public, big changes are underway for Germantown’s Internet radio station, which at its highest listenership has over 15,000 people tuning in worldwide.

The major news broke in January, when the station got its permit from the FCC to become a Low Power FM radio station -- new federal legislation gave non-commercial neighborhood groups access to low-power airwaves previously denied them in favor of major broadcasting frequencies.

"To serve the community as best we can, being on the radio allows us to do that much better than we can online,” explains Bear who is still "a big believer" in Internet radio. "I love the medium. I love what you can do with it, but at the same time, there are real limitations to who you can expect to reach. I think that would be true anywhere, but I think it’s even more evident in a community like Germantown."

In many neighborhoods, the digital divide is still very real. Unlike Internet access, which can be costly and require certain skills to tune in, radio is still a ubiquitous and easily accessible medium, free for everyone with a car or a radio in the home. (The station will continue to broadcast online as well.)

With an existing studio and programming, G-town Radio (which will share airtime with Germantown United CDC and Germantown Life Enrichment Center) is ahead of some nascent LPFM stations who must build their presence from the ground up.

Right now, Bear is looking into locations and lease agreements with local property owners who might be able to host a radio antenna on the roof. The studio space itself won’t require much additional equipment: the primary expense of shifting to LPFM will be that new transmission equipment, including the gear that beams the audio from the studio to the tower.

To that end, G-Town Radio has launched a "Drive for the Sky" crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo, hoping to raise $5,000 by October 3. That will cover the initial costs of equipment and installation, and possibly the first few months of rent for the antenna location.

"We want to make sure we get to the air… [and] demonstrate our worth, and hopefully when we’re doing that, people will recognize the value of community radio, and give us access to a larger pool of donors and supporters and listeners," enthuses Bear.

He hopes the new G-town Radio signal -- available at 92.9 FM -- will hit the airwaves as soon as possible: They’re on an FCC-administered deadline requiring completion of LPFM construction within 18 months of receiving the permit, which means launching by next summer at the latest. The signal is expected to reach what Bear calls "greater Northwest Philadelphia," including Germantown, East Falls, Nicetown, Mt. Airy and West Oak Lane. (Depending on location and the density of area buildings, LPFM signals typically have a three to five mile radius.)

"A lot of it’s behind the scenes so there’s not much to see," says Bear of the LPFM progress so far, "but we’re actively working on it and we’re still moving forward."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jim Bear, G-Town Radio

Mt. Airy native Ari Weinstein shakes up the app store with Workflow

When you need to give your loved one an ETA or figure out the quickest way to your next meeting, there are many ways to do it: A peek at the clock, your calendar and maybe Google maps, a bit of mental math, and opening up a messenger app to tap out a quick note.

Wait. Too many steps? 20-year-old Ari Weinstein thought so, and decided to give a new meaning to the word "workflow."

In his new app, released last December with partner Conrad Kramer (an 18-year-old Cherry Hill native), workflow has become a singular, individualized concept. For example, here’s a workflow for you: I have a picture on my phone that I want to share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all at once. I want a button on my home screen that’ll do all that automatically. Or, I'm viewing a website, and I want to make, save and send an instant PDF of it. Thanks to the Workflow app, there’s "a workflow" for that -- in other words, a way to customize and automate multi-step digital tasks you need throughout the day -- and pretty much anything else you want to do on your smartphone.

"One way to describe it would be that Workflow lets you automate different things that you do every day, so you can do them just with a push of a button," explains Weinstein. "You can sort of make these really personalized experiences that automate things that only you do.

You can get creative and make your own workflows or you can engage with an online community sharing the workflows they’ve invented.

Weinstein (son of Philly Office Retail president Ken Weinstein) is a West Mt. Airy native who graduated from Germantown Friends School, took a "gap year" before college to work in California, and then started at MIT in 2013. But in December of that year, he and Kramer applied for a Thiel Fellowship, granted every year to 20 college students under the age of 20 nationwide. The fellowship offers the winners $100,000 over two years to pursue a passion outside of the classroom. (Workflow is Weinstein’s second app launch; he also developed DeskConnect.)

Weinstein and Kramer, now based in San Francisco, found out they’d been selected for the fellowship in May 2014.

Since then, things have moved quickly.

"The launch went incredibly well," recalls Weinstein. Apple selected Workflow as an editor’s choice in the app store, showing it on a banner to everyone who visited the site.  

"It was the no. 1 most downloaded app on the [paid] app store for four days," he continues. "We’ve just been thrilled with the way people have taken advantage of it. People have made hundreds of thousands of workflows, some of which are really cool that we never would have thought of."

There are now three guys on the startup's team: 18-year-old Nick Frey, from Iowa, has joined Weinstein and Kramer.

And this is still just the earliest version of the app -- Weinstein hints at "a big update" they hope to launch by February.

So does he want to go back to school?

"That’s a hard question," he muses. "I’m not sure I can make that call right now."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Ari Weinstein, Workflow

State of Young Philly has never looked better

If you want to know how young Philly's doing, let me sum it up for you: smart and good looking. From the highest reaches of government right down to our youngest up and comers, there's never been a more attractive bunch of people in charge.

The second annual State of Young Philly, convened by the all-volunteer Young Involved Philadelphia for a two-week run, was a series of six events designed to engage, connect and represent citizens. Targeting community engagement, education, sustainability and the creative economy, State of Young Philly drew close to 1,000 young professionals and representatives from over 50 organizations in the city, according to organizers. From the first packed event at World Cafe Live on Oct. 4 to the standing-room only crowd at the finale at The Gershman Y, the crowd was diverse in age and background and alike in its forward-thinking approach.

Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philadelphia Board Chair, says, "When I first moved to Philadelphia just over a decade ago, I was initially struck by the negativity of the city. But the spirit in the discussions over the course of the past few weeks has been very different than that initial perception I got when I first moved here. Rather than focusing solely on what was in need of improvement, each of the discussions was as much about how to build on already existing innovation and assets the city has to offer."

Alain Joinville, Public Affairs Coordinator for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation and a Young Involved Philly board member, adds, "It was easier to get partnering organizations involved. The State of Young Philly series is the biggest and most audacious project our organization has undertaken in its 11-year history, and we did it pretty well last year, so we are seen as a credible organization in the eyes of the City's leaders and leading organizations."

Robertson-Kraft points to several initiatives that launched in the lead-up to this year's State of Young Philly: a local version of the online web portal Change By Us,a partnership with United Way to improve Philadelphia public education, entry into the Open Data Philly challenge, and social media hashtags #WhyILovePhilly and #PhillyArts.

But ultimately, the draw of State of Young Philly is the promise of doing good combined with a commitment to fun. Reports Robertson-Kraft, "Let’s just say that the after-party went into the late hours of the night. At all of our events, we strive to achieve that perfect balance of meaningful conversation and a good time."

It's a whole new take on a thousand points of light.

Source: Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Open Data Race lets you vote for data sets that are most fit for public consumption

Data collection and dissemination: how much fun is that? If you are participating in Philadelphia's Open Data Race, you might actually squeeze a good time out of otherwise flat statistics. Voting in the Open Data Race is open to the public until Oct. 27, and currently, you can make your opinion known on which of 24 data sets you would like to see made public.

"We hope to generate excitement around open data," says Deborah Boyer, project manager at Philadelphia-based Azavea. Nominations contributed by non-profit organizations were reviewed by OpenDataPhilly partners, namely Azavea, NPower Pennsylvania, The William Penn Foundation, and Technically Philly.

It's probably too early to judge, but right now the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's request for stats on reported bike thefts is atop the rankings with 55 votes, followed by Demographic Info for Individuals Accessing Shelter Services submitted by Back on My Feet with 50 votes. Other organizations represented in the voting ranks include the Committee of 70, The Urban Tree Connection and The Sustainable Business Network.

Boyer says, "Public participation has been a key feature of OpenDataPhilly and is also crucial to the Open Data Race. We encourage people to submit data sets for inclusion in OpenDataPhilly or nominate data they would like to see made available."

Boyer points to difficulties municipalities might have in identifying which data is most needed. "Through Open Data Race, non-profit organizations have the opportunity to let the city and OpenDataPhilly partners know what information they need to fulfill their missions."

Winners, to be announced on Friday, Oct. 28, will receive cash prizes. First place gets $2,000, second place gets $1,000, and third receives $500. At that point, the fun really begins, when OpenDataPhilly works with the city to unlock the requested sets and then hosts hack-a-thons to create applications that use the data.

Source: Deborah Boyer, Azavea/OpenDataPhilly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Crowdsourced education comes to Philly with Skillshare

What do you know? There's a new way to make money based on your particular set of skills and talents. It's called Skillshare. Launched in Philadelphia last month with national headquarters in New York City, Skillshare allows anyone to teach anything and get paid for it. Brendan Lowry has been in charge of launching the program in Philadelphia. "Every city is a university, all the restaurants and cafes are classrooms, and our neighbors are our greatest teachers," says Lowry, whose title is Special Operations.

Here's how it works: Say you are really good at knitting. Sure, you could sell your stuff on Etsy. But with Skillshare, you can also hold knitting class at a location of your choice. Set your own price per student, and get paid through PayPal. Skillshare deducts 15 percent of every ticket sold.

Skillshare, on a mission to democratize and redefine education, launched in New York in May of this year, and is now operating in Philadelphia and San Francisco, with hopes for setting up in cities across the US. Each city needs to be unlocked by popular vote. When the vote count surpasses 500, a team is created to get the word out. "We've targeted the tech community. It's one of the first industries we tapped into, but we don't want to fall exclusively in that category," says Lowry, who says right now there are over a hundred classes on offer in the Philadelphia area, ranging from The Art of the Cold Call to Beer 101. Teachers post credentials and a feedback process is designed to ensure a quality learning experience (full disclosure: I am teaching Communications for Startups on Sept. 20).

"Our marketing budget is literally zero dollars," says Lowry, who has done outreach through social media and word of mouth. There is also a newly created, limited time $1,000 scholarship fund which encourages more people to take classes in Philly and SF. Skillshare is set to launch next in Boston, Washington DC and New Orleans.

Source: Brendan Lowry, Skillshare
Writer: Sue Spolan

South Philly resident grows composting collection business

Your scraps are Tim Bennett's gold mine. Bennett Compost offers urban dwellers the opportunity to recycle food waste without expensive equipment or outdoor space. Bennett began the business out of a personal need. "At the time, where I was living in South Philly, I wanted to compost, but I had no backyard." After dissatisfaction with home composting systems costing around $300, Bennett created a composting service that would benefit city homes and businesses at a fraction of the cost.

For a $15 monthly fee, residential customers receive a covered bucket, and Bennett's truck swings around once a week to empty and return the container. Commercial customers, including coffee shops, a florist and some restaurants, pay on a sliding scale depending on volume and frequency of pickup, but Bennett adds that the cost offsets commercial trash hauling fees, and in some cases commercial customers are able to save money on refuse.

Used food and some types of paper are sent to a composting facility in Delaware and then picked up for distribution to area community gardens. Customers can opt to receive up to 10 gallons of the finished product free of charge; beyond that, compost is available at a discounted price. You don't have to be a customer to buy compost. Five gallon buckets are available to the general public for $10, and will soon be sold at area retail locations including Essene Market and Green Aisle Grocery.

Current offices are based in South Philly at Bennett's home, with a North Philadelphia warehouse. Bennett was able to quit his day job at Temple University last summer to devote his career full time to compost. "We bootstrapped our way up. Now we are profitable enough that I am able to pay my own salary, and we have three part time employees." The business continues to grow, with 300 residential customers and 20 businesses distributed across the entire city.

Source: Tim Bennett, Bennett Compost
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Moving wheels: Mt. Airy electric bike shop expands to larger quarters

It all started over a disagreement about who was going to use the car. Mt. Airy resident Meenal Raval and her husband Afshin Kaighobady had proudly downshifted from two cars to one, and that's when the couple purchased their first electric bike to navigate the hilly terrain of the neighborhood. But a two mile ride to work took an hour, reports Meenal, because people kept stopping her along the way to ask about her unique form of conveyance.

"We realized no one was selling electric bikes in Philly," says Meenal, who purchased that first bike out of state. Meenal and Afshin put their life savings into Philly Electric Wheels, or PHEW!, and opened their first store at the corner of Carpenter Lane and Greene Street, right across from Weavers' Way Co-op. The response was even greater than anticipated. Not only was PHEW! selling new bikes, but all those people who had bought bikes elsewhere dusted them off and brought them in for repairs within the first month.

With continued support for the only bike shop, electric or manual, in West Mount Airy, Meenal and Afshin soon grew out of their original space. Today is the grand opening of their expanded shop at 7102 Germantown Avenue, which boasts a larger retail area with both electric and non-electric bikes for sale, more storage, more space for repairs, and increased foot traffic. Meenal says that because the new shop is on two transit lines, bikers can hook their wheels onto a SEPTA bus, drop in for repair, and then ride on home. The new shop also serves an expanded clientele, as Germantown Avenue is the dividing line between East and West Mount Airy.

Source: Meenal Raval, Philly Electric Wheels
Writer: Sue Spolan

Niche Recycling brings composting dumpster, waste management systems to Navy Yard

When Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled 500 Big Belly solar garbage compactors all over the city in April 2009, there was skepticism as to the effectiveness of this new technology. But when this test run was complete and the Philly Throws Green case study was released in June, city officials found the compactors would save over $1.5 million in waste collection man-hours per year. The city hopes its newest garbage-related investment in composting will yield the same results.

In an effort to conduct a real-world test of its effectiveness, the city of Philadelphia has granted $18,700 to Niche Recycling for one of its composting "Bio Bins." By trapping in natural gasses released from food waste using a sealed bin, a recirculating air system and wood chips, Bio Bins break down food waste so that fewer collections are needed.

"With food waste, you typically have three days before you start to get anaerobic conditions and smell," says Niche Recycling founder Maurice Sampson II. "With Bio Bins, you can handle this on-site. There is a tremendous savings to not have to collect every other day and, unlike a typical composting operation, we can use normal garbage trucks."

The grant comes as part of the Greenworks Pilot Energy Technology (G-PET) program, which is funded through the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. With the exposure of this project and the recent opening of the Wilmington Organic Recycling Center, Sampson hopes to offer a full composting service that will give him a competitive advantage over trash collectors.

"We are very proud to be selected for this grant that is about commercialization, so that we can test it and find out what the criteria are," says Sampson. "Composting is not something we typically think of in America but oh my goodness, it is going to make such a difference."

Source: Maurice Sampson II, Niche Recycling
Writer: John Steele

With Cyber Monday approaching, Monetate.com prepares for the holiday rush

Everyone is familiar with Black Friday. The frenzied dash of hungry holiday consumers to price-slashed stores the day after Thanksgiving has become an American tradition as timeless as the Christmas tree. But have you heard of Cyber Monday? Between 2008 and 2009, website retailers showed a 43 percent traffic increase on the Monday following Black Friday where online retailers begin their holiday sales.

This year, Conshohocken website optimization firm Monetate.com broke some records of its own, doubling in size over the last six months. From Dicks Sporting Goods to Urban Outfitters, Monetate offers a revolving door of keywords targeting the changing tastes of consumers without calling the IT department. As the holiday season gets underway, the quick turnaround of this solution has new clients joining up.

"If it's raining outside, the store owner pushes the umbrellas up front and adds 30 percent to the price and makes a lot of money that day," says Monetate VP of Marketing Blair Lyon. "Large retail sites have a hard time doing that because of all this overlapping technology that is in place, requiring the IT departments to get involved, preventing retailers from trying things."

With a year of record growth under its belt, Monetate isn't waiting for the holidays to make some purchases. With five open positions listed on its website, Monetate looks to hire 10 new employees in the next six months to handle the demands of an ever-expanding client list. With a veritable whos-who of Philadelphia retailers, Monetate looks to expand its footprint and hopes Cyber Monday can be its coming out party.

"We can have this implemented in minutes, giving it about two weeks to be effective," says Lyon. "That's why we are excited about attacking Cyber Monday. A lot of customers don't think there is enough time before the holidays. We can have them up and running for the holiday season right now."

Source: Blair Lyon, Monetate
Writer: John Steele

Northwest Farm Fest celebrates urban farming with country flavor

Farmers across Central Pennsylvania will be celebrating another plentiful harvest season this fall, but thanks to Weavers Way and the Awbury Arboretum, there will also be plenty of celebrating to do in the city. The Weavers Way Community Farm, a Northwest Philadelphia urban farm tended by high school students and used to make local products by community members,  is honoring another successful year. The Weavers Way farm celebrates this Saturday from 11am-3pm at Awbury Arboretum with the second annual Northwest FarmFest, a country festival for Philadelphia's city farmers.

"This farm is making sustainable agriculture a part of this urban community," says farm committee member Josh Brooks. "This is a time to gain acknowledgment for the farm, spread awareness and just celebrate that it's there. And have fun."

As the Weavers Way urban farm offers students and community members all the benefits of local agriculture--fresh produce, low prices, local cultivation--the Chestnut Hill food co-op's members and community program directors bring all the country comforts of a small-town festival to the big city. The Northwest FarmFest is free and open to the public, presenting musical performances from local acts, pumpkin painting, hay rides, and farm tours. And of course, the Weavers Way Farmstand will have plenty of homegrown produce on sale, along with prepared food from the Weavers Way's Marketplace Program, a school-based cooperative food business run by students. Weavers Way hopes the event will be a venue to show off many school programs focused on the benefits and lessons of local, healthy eating. And of course, to celebrate the harvest.

"We will also be promoting the whole aspect of Weavers Way Community Programs who work with schools to create a marketplace, teaching about food and creating a market" says Brooks. "We'll have food, some barbecue, the marketplace will be selling some food and drink."

Source: Josh Brooks, Weavers Way Farm
Writer: John Steele
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